Tow Systems for SUPs will give you info on different tow systems and how they can be deployed to rescue fatigued, injured, cold or paddlers caught by wind conditions.

Since SUP is considered by many as easy to learn, both beginners and a few rental businesses put their customers on the water with minimal instruction, clothing and gear, often in conditions above their skill level.

In Seattle in the summer on blue sky days, the north wind jacks up by noon to late afternoon resulting in up to 3′-4′ wind waves. The combo of sun starved Seattleites and a stiff northerly pushed many unsuspecting renters south, sometimes 1-3 miles. Friends and I towed several back to the launch beach, and a few had to be rescued by commercial fishing, police, and recreational boaters.

Kayakers have for years used tow ropes to tow seasick, fatigued, or injured paddlers or other water sports enthusiasts to safety.

Tow systems Designs

Throw Ropes – Designed to throw from shore but can be used to tow.

Tow Ropes – Designed for towing, but can be thrown. Attach to waist or deck.

Alternatively, tow and throw lines can be used to dry your gear in camp and/or to put up a tarp. 

Tow Ropes – How to Wear or Attach

Some can be mounted on the deck of a SUP or kayak.

Or can be worn as a fanny pack like bag around your waist.

Some PFDs (Type 3) such at the Astral Green Jacket have a short cow tow or contact tow system tucked in a pocket. Some like the

NRS Kayak Tow Bag

NRS Kayak Tow Bag

MTI Vibe have an add-on quick release belt that can hold a waist leash and tow system.


SUP Towing Techniques

Most Common Method:  Attach tow line to SUP forward bungees or wrap around the paddler’s paddle shaft in the middle (securing biner on opposite rope loop), or have the rescuee hold the line.

Have the rescuee lay prone on their board for a low center of gravity, holding their paddle under their chest with the shaft sticking out forward.

In some cases, you may have to lay prone on top of the rescuee or kneel over, with legs on both sides of the rescee.

Standing will give you the most power for towing, but you may have to sit if paddling into wind or if in rough conditions. While many like to kneel, sitting is most efficient in going upwind (when towing).

Don’t have a Tow Rope?  Use the leash of the person you’re towing if you don’t have a tow system. Downside losing your leash.

Additional Rescue Tips:

Ask the rescuee to keep their legs on the board when towing. If they dangle over the sides and drag in the water, you’ll go 50% slower – not fun for the rescurer.

Ask the rescuee to sit or lay prone for a lower center of gravity instead of standing.

Towing Issues

Don’t tow in surf or coastal rock gardens. Waves can push the rescuee’s board into yours creating more problems.

Towing in surf or downwind could be an issue with waves pushing the rescuee into the person towing

Tip: Get training for rescues in whitewater: http://www.whitewater-rescue.com/main.asp

Myth: You can’t tow a SUP backwards fin first. I’ve tested this, and it does work if towing using the leash plug loop to attach to. Someone on StandUpZone said you’d have to remove the fin for this to work – what if you loose the fin and screw in the process?

Learn More

Order my SUP Rescues Water Safety online course with videos and text on the flip rescue, towing, and many other tips.


Check out my Seattle based SUP classes  www.salmonbaypaddle.com


Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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